Ocean Fantasy Museum in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

From the outside, the Ocean Fantasy Museum, located in the Chengcing Lake Recreation Area in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, doesn’t look like your typical aquarium. A kitschy mermaid statue lounges under a fountain and the path to the entrance is covered in a mural of sealife, but the building itself seems small, scarcely more than a foreboding concrete dome over a shadowed doorway. 

Walk through the entrance—a 5,000-kilogram lead and steel blast door, meant to withstand nuclear detonations—and you will find a treasure trove of marine life, one tank after another lined down the narrow 200-meter winding path of this former underground bunker. 

In 1963, this bunker was built into a hill close to a winter residence owned by Chiang Kai-shek, the dictator of the Republic of China in Taiwan until his death in 1975. It was intended to act as a military command center should war break out with China during one of Chiang’s visits and to save him and his staff from annihilation in the case of a nuclear attack. Since 1992 the bunker has been converted from its original purpose to house this distinctive aquarium.

The aquarium’s exhibits include numerous rare and distinctive species, from remoras to scorpionfish. Besides the living sea life, the aquarium also boasts a large collection of shells, fossils, and preserved coral, including one of the largest specimens of black coral in the world. The floor-to-ceiling murals of marine life, ships, and mermaids that cover the walls have begun to peel and give the aquarium a kitschy, antiquated feel.

Know Before You Go

Entrance to the Chengcing Lake Recreation Area is 100 NTD and the Ocean Fantasy Museum costs an additional 200 NTD, though there are discounts for seniors, students, and children. Hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Tuesday through Friday and 8:30 am to 5 pm on weekends.

Visitors to the Chengcing Lake Recreation Area can also tour Chiang Kai-shek’s former residence nearby.

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